Music Students and Academic Achievement

Introduction

            A musician may or may not become popular and wealthy in life.  According to general opinion, it is easier to become moderately wealthy by studying business or science.  A musician may or may not become skilled enough to join the music industry as a full-fledged artist.  Knowing that celebrity status has certainly not followed every musician and/or gifted individual on earth – a child who loves music may be told by his or her parents to leave musical instruments to spend more time with his or her textbooks instead.  Yet, scientific research reveals that leaving musical instruments to spend more time with textbooks does not necessarily raise academic achievement of students.  It is the other way around (Hodges & O’Connell, pp. 2.3).  In fact, there is ample research providing evidence for music students being better than the rest in terms of overall academic achievement.

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Literature Review

            The National Education Longitudinal Study conducted in 1988 clearly showed that music students get better grades in school.  These students also receive more academic awards and honors than the rest (“Music and Academic Achievement”).  Likewise, a longitudinal study conducted by Dr. James Catterall with twenty five thousand students as subjects has shown that music students, regardless of their socioeconomic status, tend to get higher scores on standardized tests, for example, SAT, and “reading proficiency” examinations (“Music and Academic Achievement”).  Because IQ scores are believed to be positively correlated to academic achievement, the American Psychological Society also felt the need to examine the intellectual differences between music students and those that do not study music.  The results of the study once again confirmed prior research evidence that music students must indeed be better students of almost all subjects.  In the study conducted by the American Psychological Society, it was shown that music lessons tend to increase intelligence or IQ scores (“Music and Academic Achievement”).  With higher IQ scores, music students must no doubt perform better in almost all classes in school.

     Royer has written a research report on the positive correlation between the study of music and academic achievement.  Despite the fact that studies of the arts are often discounted because the future of an artist may appear uncertain for a long time to come – the research report presents astounding findings.  The following extract from the report is a meta-analysis providing further support for the hypothesis that music students tend to do better than the rest in academic institutions:

         A master’s thesis by Jeanne Akin, Music Makes a Difference, documents numerous studies

    that show the value of music education to learning the “core” curriculum. Highlights from a

    summary of Ms. Akin’s findings are as follows: 1. Arts education leads to cognitive and basic

    skills development… 2. Arts education increases interest in academic learning… 3. High

    school music students have been shown to hold higher grade point averages (GPA) than non-

    musicians in the same school… 4. The study of music produces the development of academic

    achievement skills… 5. Learning to play a musical instrument helps students to develop faster

    physically, mentally, emotionally and socially… 6. There is a high relationship between high

    self-perception, high cognitive competence scores, general self-esteem and interest in school

    music… 7. Music lessons can lead to interest in academics… 8. Music education improves

    student listening skills… 9. Kindergarten basic skills achievement increases when music and

    other arts are added to the curriculum… 10. Music and arts enriched curriculum can be a

    factor in raising IQ scores for second graders… 11. In reading for meaning, music students

    can out-achieve non-music students… 12. Children who have received school keyboard music

    lessons score higher in mathematics and history than students not in the program, although

    their IQ scores are no higher than the other students’… 13. Receiving increased music

    instruction can lead to increased learning in mathematics… 14. Brain research shows that

    music and arts activities develop the intellect… 15. Research indicates that music instruction

    promotes academic achievement… (Royer).

Akin also found that there are a number of studies that prove that there is a relationship between studying music and “reinforcement for academic tasks (Royer).”  Because playing an instrument requires manual dexterity in addition to good “[e]ye-hand coordination,” research has similarly revealed that children that play musical instruments must find it easier to learn to write (Royer).  Moreover, when schools introduce arts programs such as music lessons, children with behavioral problems tend to act out less.  Reading abilities may also be enhanced by learning to read music (Royer).

     Playing a musical instrument well, the musician is aware that his or her job is nothing short of a scientific feat.  To play good music with a musical instrument, the musician has to first learn about the different notes and tones, keys and strings, depending on the musical instrument in use.  Given that good use of musical instruments must entail a scientific understanding of music and the musical instrument in use – research has further shown that music education is superior to education grounded in the sciences alone as far as raising academic achievement in mathematics and the sciences is concerned.  As a matter of fact, music lessons with musical instruments are known to enhance “abstract reasoning skills” of children better than computer education (“Music Beats Computers at Enhancing Early Childhood Development”).

     Dr. Wilson of the University of California School of Medicine has found that learning to play a musical instrument must help in brain development.  In fact, the whole “neuromuscular system” is refined by playing musical instruments, and this leads to high academic achievement for students of music instructed in instrument play (“Pull-Out Music Programs and Academic Achievement,” 2006).  Dr. Lozonov, a Bulgarian scientist, has similarly uncovered that music studies induce “accelerated learning (“Pull-Out Music Programs and Academic Achievement”).”  His work with students of music has proved that children in first grade that study music may be taught to read and write within a few short weeks (“Pull-Out Music Programs and Academic Achievement”).  Likewise, children that study music in third grade may be taught “intermediate level algebra (“Pull-Out Music Programs and Academic Achievement”).”  Dr. Lozonov’s studies have been duplicated in the United States to show that students of music do indeed improve their overall school grades while their music lessons are on (“Pull-Out Music Programs and Academic Achievement”).

     It has been shown that students of music tend to do better in almost all subjects studied in their academic institutions, regardless of whether they are primary, secondary or university going students (Hodges & O’Connell).  As mentioned previously, studies have also shown that early childhood education may be enhanced by including music lessons for all students.  Perhaps one of the most important studies proving that music students do indeed tend to do better in almost all subjects in school concerns disabled students (“Pull-Out Music Programs and Academic Achievement”).  A project by the name of “Arts in Education” was introduced in several elementary schools of Washington for a period of three years (“Pull-Out Music Programs and Academic Achievement”).  Upon the completion of this project it was revealed that even handicapped children may be taught significant academic skills more easily when their education includes music instruction (“Pull-Out Music Programs and Academic Achievement”).  Music is useful to teach when disabled children must be taught to hone their “perceptual skills (“Pull-Out Music Programs and Academic Achievement”).”  Development of language may also be made easier through study of music.  As a matter of fact, research has found that even mentally handicapped kids may be taught to achieve more than before if music lessons are made mandatory for them.  Because music lessons also help to raise self-esteem, and self-confidence is positively correlated with achievement, studying music may help learning disabled students significantly (“Pull-Out Music Programs and Academic Achievement”).

     Singing has the same effect on academic achievement as the play of musical instruments.  In a study examining the effects of music on learning new words, it was found that students that take singing lessons typically outperform those that do not sing.  But, of course, the Intelligence Quotient is based on both verbal and mathematical scores.  As mentioned before, studies have also shown that students of music score higher on tests of mathematical abilities.  In fact, the California Arts Council’s program called Alternatives in Education was created to verify this.  According to research evidence from the program, children that spend more time learning music may make “an average gain of one and one half times the normal rate in math (“Pull-Out Music Programs and Academic Achievement”).”

     Research has further compared academic achievement of students with formal versus no formal education in music.  Once again, research findings confirm that formal education in music should turn students into high academic achievers (Hodges & O’Connell).  After all, those that learn music in an academic institution tend to learn more about music from experts.  Greater knowledge of music must lead to higher academic achievement.

Conclusion

     Research has shown that students that are excused from “nonmusic” lessons in order for them to spend more time learning to play musical instruments do not experience a drop in their overall grades in school (Hodges & O’Connell, pp. 2.3).  This shows that music must necessarily be considered a necessary part of the curriculum.  After all, music studies enhance academic achievement in students at all levels of schooling.  What is more, music lessons may help learning disabled students in brain development, which is ultimately expected to help them raise their academic scores.  Music education also helps to enhance social and intrapersonal skills, and is known to raise self-esteem.  Because disabled students suffer from severe problems which are not only academic in nature but include poor social skills – music education may help them make great strides in academic institutions.

     The idea that music education does not necessarily lead to fame and riches must be discarded now, seeing that there is overwhelming research-based support for music education being positively correlated with academic achievement.  Regardless of what a trained or gifted musician chooses to do during his or her lifetime, the research evidence examined here clearly shows that musicians and singers may indeed have higher IQ scores than the rest.  This makes them high achievers in school to boot.

References

Hodges, D. A., & O’Connell, D. S. The Impact of Music Education on Academic Achievement.

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Retrieved Nov 4, 2008, from http://www.uncg.edu/mus/SoundsOfLearning/AcdemicAchievement.pdf.

Music and Academic Achievement. Retrieved Nov 4, 2008, from

http://dorothybrownmusic.com/docs/Music_and_Academic_Achievement.pdf.

Music Beats Computers at Enhancing Early Childhood Development. The National Association

for Music Education. Retrieved Nov 4, 2008, from https://www.menc.org/publication/articles/academic/amc.htm.

Pull-Out Music Programs and Academic Achievement. (2006). Children’s Music Workshop.

Retrieved Nov 4, 2008, from http://www.childrensmusicworkshop.com/advocacy/pullouts.html.

Royer, R. Research Report: Justify Your Program. The National Association for Music

Education. Retrieved Nov 4, 2008, from https://www.menc.org/publication/articles/academic/royer.htm.

 

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